New Kingdom, Dynasty XIX, reign of Ramesses II (?) (1292-1186 BC)
Provenance: Karnak, probably Temple of Amun-Re-Harakhte, later Drovetti Collection, 1824
Inv. Nr. C.1408
The Egyptian sphinx, different in shape from the Greek sphinx, was a visual metaphor for the ‘living image’ of the king. It was a lion with man’s head, with or without a straight beard (not the divine curled beard of the dead). Some female sphinxes are known, such as the Dynasty XVIII female usurper to the throne, Hatshepsut. Usually the sphinx wore the nemes-headdress, but a group of Middle Kingdom sphinxes show the lion ruff instead. Occasionally, the sphinx appeared with a ram’s or hawk’s head. The sphinx was shown either recumbent, less frequently upright, trampling foreigners, and usually before temples, mostly with a definite connection to the sun god, Amun-Re, Re-Harakhte etc. The sphinx was used sometimes as a device to create a procession way before the temple or as a means of connecting one chapel with another. The recumbent Turin sphinx, which depicts a massive lion (it measures 147 cm high), with king’s head wearing a nemes-headdress is one of a pair. The lack of inscriptions and the fact that one sphinx has had the lappets of its nemes-headdress cut down have raised concerns about the date of the two sphinxes. The broad face with the fleshy cheeks, creased eyelids, thick lips puckered at the corners and the pierced earlobes put these sphinxes squarely in the Ramesside Period. The sculptural output during the reign of King Ramesses II was so great that it possible that these are products of his reign one of whose nemes-headdress was re-carved at some point. In any case, they both are the product of the Ramesside dynasty.